Polar lipids and pigments as biomarkers for the study of the microbial community structure of solar salterns

Carol D. Litchfield, Aharon Oren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Whole community lipids and pigments have been examined over a 3-5-year period in commercial salterns located in the United States, Israel, and Spain. There were significant differences in the types of lipids and pigments within the California saltern system during the 5-year period. These patterns differed seasonally despite examination of ponds with approximately the same salinities. The solar saltern in Eilat, Israel had fewer lipids on the thin-layer chromatography plates and confirmed previous analyses. The biota in the crystallizer pond in Alicante, Spain, resembled the microbial community in Israel. In the crystallizers at all three locations, phosphatidyl glycerol, methyl-phosphatidyl glycerophosphate, phosphatidyl glycerosulfate, and the sulfated diglycosyldiether lipid were identified regardless of season. This was not true for pans with salinities below 25% where no distinctive pattern was observed. Thus, we hypothesize that the more eutrophic inlet waters of the California saltern and the cooler temperatures, which result in longer retention times of water in the different pans, allow for the more diverse microbial community to develop. This is reflected then in more complex lipid and pigment patterns. However, the oligotrophic inlet waters to the Eilat saltern coupled with a drier and warmer climate result in a shorter retention time of water in the pans and a less diverse microbial community as evidenced by fewer extractable lipids and pigments.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the owners of the Cargill Solar Salt Plant in Newark, California, U.S.A., the Israel Salt Company in Eilat, Israel, and the Santa Pola salterns, Alicante, Spain, for allowing access to the sampling sites. We are also appreciative of the assistance of G. Dimitrov, A. Irby, T. Kis-Papo, N. Koval, and S. Vinayak in various aspects of this study. Portions of this work were supported by grant No. 95-00027 from the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (B.S.F., Jerusalem) (to A.O. and C.D.L.) and the Halophile Fund of the George Mason University Research Foundation (to C.D.L.). The study of the Alicante salterns by A.O. was supported by a grant from the Israel Ministry of Science and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs – The General Directorate of Cultural and Scientific Relations. We thank F. Rodríguez-Valera and S. Benlloch for their hospitality in Alicante and R.S. Oremland (U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA) for the use of his laboratory during the California field trips.


  • Bacterioruberin
  • Carotenoids
  • Chlorophyll
  • Dunaliella
  • Halophilic Archaea
  • Polar lipids
  • Solar salterns


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